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Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

Note to Hamlet, 4.5.175-185: Ophelia's flowers


Return
to
Hamlet,
Act 4, Scene 5, lines 175-185
Though Opelia is mad, it seems that her flowers have some kind of not-so-mad meaning.

First of all, Ophelia has not invented the meanings of the flowers; they are all traditional. Shakespeare's audience would be familiar with the idea that rosemary is "for remembrance," and pansies are "for thoughts."

Secondly, the meanings of the flowers seems appropriate to the persons in the scene. For example, the rosemary for remembrance and the pansies for thought could go to Laertes, who remembers his father and thinks about his sister. The fennel for flattery and the columbines for ingratitude could go to the King. Ophelia has some rue, for sorrow and repentance, and maybe she gives some to the Queen, with the comment that "you must wear your rue with a difference" (4.5.183), because the Queen's sorrow and repentance are not the same as Ophelia's. There's a daisy for dissembling, which could also go to the Queen, or perhaps the King. Finally, there's violets for faithfulness. Ophelia says of them: "I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died: they say he made a good end" (4.5.184-186).

Rosemary
Rosemary


Pansies
Pansies


Fennel
Fennel


Columbines
Columbines


Rue
Rue


Daisy
Daisy


Violets
Violets